Most experts in the field of addiction agree that the average length of a craving is about three minutes. We find with tobacco dependence that, whether a person has a cigarette or not, the craving will typically pass within this three minute time period. There are certainly exceptions to this general rule. For example, when a person experiencing a craving begins to fixate on the thought of having a cigarette, that craving can last much longer and be difficult to overcome. Or if the cravings come close together it can feel like one long one.
The key to keeping cravings short and manageable is to keep the mind busy or distract yourself for those three brief minutes. This may seem like a challenge, but consider this: the average song on the radio or your playlist is about three minutes long. Could you keep yourself busy for the length of your favorite tune? When I work with patients, we spend time creating a list of short, engaging activities they can use as distractions when cravings come around. Everyone is unique in what works for them. I’ve seen some interesting, but nonetheless, effective ideas.
Feel free to share what activities and strategies you have found most effective in overcoming these three minute challenges during your smoke-free journey.